The Cup stage of the Champions League opens today with the first matches of the 1/8 finals in two pairs, in which there is a fairly clear division into the favorite and the outsider. It is extremely clear in the confrontation between Copenhagen and Manchester City, but in the rivalry between Leipzig and Real Madrid there is still intrigue - primarily due to the abundance of losses of the Madrid club.
The two Tuesday matches that kick off the Champions League play-offs, of course, are tempting to put them in one category - these are, in fact, typical of its early stages of clashes, when a giant club, with its sights on the trophy, is dealing with a much less resonant brand. But still there is some difference between them.
The classic story without reservations about a fight between a dwarf and a giant is, most likely, just about a couple in which today in the first meeting of the 1/8 finals, Copenhagen hosts the winner of the previous draw, Manchester City. Of course, we must remember about the Danish club that they made a good noise in the group stage, when they squeezed out a ticket to the play-offs thanks to the fact that in the second round they first defeated Manchester United, and then played a draw with the leader of the quartet, Bayern, on a foreign field “and in general appeared to be a team with a good balance: it can defend in an outsider’s style, perhaps, riding a wave of healthy indifference, which often helps those who are modestly rated to jump over their heads and suddenly rush forward. But, whatever one may say, in order for the Copenhagens to at least beat up their next rivals who seem to have reached their peak in the winter, magic is required. Well, or already unhealthy indifference from the Manchester City players, despite the fact that they were not noticed to be inclined towards it.
The situation is different with the confrontation in which Leipzig hosts Real Madrid on Tuesday. Although in this case, if you do not go into details, the layout in it may seem simple and understandable.
Before the play-offs of the current Champions League, Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti recalled the past draw. In it, the Madrid team crossed paths with Leipzig in the group round and experienced its teeth first-hand, sharing victories. But these memories, strictly speaking, are not very relevant.
If Real is now in good form, and after Saturday's defeat of Girona, it is heading straight for the gold of the Spanish championship, then the German club approached the playoffs in a state that is clearly far from ideal. In principle, he seems to have lost a little bit this season. And these observations especially apply to winter. In January, for example, there was a series of three consecutive defeats for Leipzig in the national championship, and Stuttgart crushed it with a score of 5:2. The club's recent meeting on Saturday, in which it lost peace with the unremarkable Augsburg, also did not tell us anything about it that would suggest a rise.
And in Leipzig’s winter transfer campaign, you can even see signs that its management no longer cares about the present and is looking to the future. If the present worried him much, he would hardly have sent Emil Forsberg and Timo Werner to the New York Red Bulls and Tottenham with their experience so useful for the playoffs.
But the details are still important. And they consist in the abundance of losses for Real. All central defenders dropped out - Eder Militan, David Alaba, Antonio Rudiger, Nacho. With Girona, the most interesting player in the Madrid attack line, Jude Bellingham, broke down.
But God be with him, with Bellingham. The thing is that Leipzig, despite all its difficulties, has a terribly dangerous combination of forwards in front - the nimble Lua Openda and Benjamin Sheshko, who, with his basketball height of a decent 190 cm, throws the ball fantastically. So, this tandem, which constantly pulls out the Leipzig team, looks literally designed to deal with central defenders who are not distinguished by outstanding physical data and outstanding skills. And in the center of Real's defense, apparently, again, as in the match with Girona, there will be Aurélien Chuameni and Dani Carvajal, who have played in the middle of the field all their lives. There are few options.